You don’t need more proof of liberal media bias. It’s blatant at this point, especially at the national stage. They’re not even trying to hide it.
Iowa press like to think of themselves as better than that. And I think many of them actually try to be better than that. But it’s time to take a step back and evaluate how their writing has taken a tilt, even in subtle ways that they might not realize.
Today’s case study: A tale of two bloggers, one on the left and one on the right.
Enter stage left Laura Belin of Bleeding Heartland. Last month, the liberal blogger/lawyer/epidemiologist/conspiracy theorist went after Ray “Bubba” Sorensen for posting memes on social media that make light of attitudes on vaccinations.
KCCI picked up the story, and in doing so noted that “the Bleeding Heartland community blog first reported the memes Thursday.” No mention by KCCI that Bleeding Heartland is a far-left liberal attack blog. No mention of Belin’s political affiliation. (She’s given over $41,000 to Democrats in the last 17 years – $30,000 of that in the last 10 years.) Just a tip of the hat to Belin who “first reported” the social media posts.
Now enter stage right Jacob Hall of The Iowa Standard. Earlier this year, Hall went after Drake Law Professor Beth Younger, who posted tweets discussing her hatred for Republicans. (“Hatred” is not Hall’s characterization. Younger literally posted on Twitter that she was “just pondering how much hatred I feel towards all the Republican assholes. They need to suffer.”)
KCCI picked up that story too, but this time the media outlet didn’t just say that “the Iowa Standard first reported on the Twitter posts.” No, no. Here’s how KCCI chose to describe how the Iowa Standard broke the story: “Younger’s tweets came under fire following critique from the conservative Iowa blog ‘The Standard.”
See the difference? Hall did not “report” on the story, as Belin was described to have done. Instead, the “conservative blog Iowa blog ‘The Standard’” (they can’t even get the blog name right) “critiqued” the tweets and put the Republican-hating professor “under fire.”
This isn’t a one-time occurrence. Earlier this year, KCCI described Bleeding Heartland as an “Iowa political blog,” deciding again to leave out adjectives like “left-leaning,” “liberal,” “progressive,” or anything of the kind that would give context for her one-sided views.
And just last week, KCCI picked up another story from The Iowa Standard, choosing this time to go with the description “conservative Iowa blog called the Iowa standard.” (“S” not capitalized.)
But we don’t mean to single out KCCI. Because it’s not alone.
The Cedar Rapids Gazette makes a pastime out of pulling stories from Belin’s blog, always referring to Bleeding Heartland without any reference to its author’s political leanings. Here’s the latest one: “Bleeding Heartland first published news about the bonuses for Garcia, Bayens and Lyon.”
But what about when Hall broke the story of Jim Carlin’s US Senate run? What did the Gazette says then? Well, you know the drill: “His candidacy was first reported Friday by the Iowa Standard, a conservative news website.”
We can’t leave the Register out, of course. It also picked up Hall’s story on the social media posts of Johnston Community School District’s soon-to-be equity director, stating that the “conservative news site The Iowa Standard highlighted the posts from Louis Fountain.”
But when referring to Belin and her blog, there is no similar political characterization. Just the usual “first reported by the Bleeding Heartland blog.”
Again, it’s not that the characterizations of The Iowa Standard is false or misleading. But if these news outlets think that the political leanings of the site’s author provide needed context when that author is firmly on the right, why don’t they feel the need to do the same when the author is firmly on the left?
It’s also not limited to blogs. Can we please, please, please stop quoting Iowa State professor Dave Swenson as if he’s just an objective expert. He is a registered Democrat and has fervent, far-left political leanings. So when his economic opinions are really just arrows directed at Republicans, the reader should absolutely be told about his political affiliation.
The guy is a Elizabeth Warren fanboy whose Twitter feed could be mistaken for that of a Democrat operative. There are too many Tweets to highlight (Swenson could be his own post), but this is an “expert” who Tweeted, with clear approval, this line from New York Times opinion piece: “Republicans don’t just have bad ideas; at this point, they are, necessarily, bad people.”
In response to a report that the “vertebrate population has declined 60% since 1970,” Swenson tweeted: “Certainly true of the GOP.” When it was reported that Chuck Grassley referred Michael Avenatti to the DOJ for false allegations, Swenson mockingly said of Grassley: “Class act as always.” (Avenatti is currently in jail.)
He called Sen. Susan Collins “gutter slime,” Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh a “Georgetown perp,” Sen. Ben Sasse a “miscreant,” Sen. Grassley a “fool,” and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate “sketchy, hinky, shady, questionable, inflated (e.g., education credentials), absent, and corrupt.”
Iowa journalist, I know there are so many tweets. And you can’t be bothered to go through all of them. But before you go asking Swenson for another quote about how Republicans’ economic policy is bad and Democrats’ economic policy is good. Or before you quote him on anything, for that matter, please consider the following:
Senator @ChuckGrassley, this is nothing short of depraved indifference to our nation’s judiciary and justice. You are nothing but a hack, and will ultimately be remembered as such.https://t.co/LmEAuOEQpv
— Swenson (@daswenson) November 11, 2017
All of you folks fancifully throwing out the word “hack” in non-computing contexts please stop. You sound stupid.
— Swenson (@daswenson) March 12, 2018
Enough said. It’s past time Iowa reporters and their editors take a long, hard look at who they’re using to source their stories. Quoting people like Swenson in mainstream stories is dangerous enough, but if you feel compelled to quote them, you should at least point out the inherent bias they bring–especially when you feel the need to label every conservative as such.
If you think it’s important to tell readers that conservative authors and experts are conservative, then it’s certainly important enough to point out when they’re liberals.
Or don’t. See what that does for your credibility.